The Denver Broncos started the season with a bang. They won their first two games of the season, and things appeared to be trending in the right direction in the Mile High City. But here we are just three short weeks later, and the team is now holding a 2-3 record. What has been the main cause of the Broncos swift decline in both their play and their place in the standings?
In the opening week of the season, Denver took on the Seattle Seahawks, and while it took a fourth quarter comeback, the team ultimately came out on top. Sure, it was far from a perfect performance, but quarterback Case Keenum still threw three touchdown passes (and three interceptions) on the day, leading the team to victory. Stud edge rusher Von Miller appeared to have regained his Super Bowl form, recording three sacks of Russell Wilson on the day. All seemed to be positive in Denver.
After the Broncos took down the division rival Raiders in Week 2, things began to spiral out of control. Denver struggled to move the ball in Baltimore, only scoring 14 total points in that game. They returned back home to face Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City in a crucial early-season matchup with the undefeated Chiefs. The Broncos held the lead until less than two minutes left in the game, when they relinquished it for good, along with their grasp of the division.
The pinnacle of the team’s decline was glaring last week in the Meadowlands, where they got demolished by a putrid New York Jets offense, who had struggled to get anything going, since the first week of the season. But rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and the offense took it to the Broncos defense in a way that left many people stunned. Running back Isaiah Crowell set a franchise record with 219 rushing yards and a touchdown. Even more worrisome for Denver is the fact that he accomplished the feat on just 15 rush attempts.
For those thinking that Crowell simply had “one of those days,” they can simply look to backup running back Bilal Powell’s performance, to clarify that the issue was Denver’s defense (or lack thereof), rather than the inception of a suddenly high-powered Jets offense. Powell had 20 carries for 99 yards on the day. Overall, the Jets tagged Denver for a disconcerting 323 rushing yards, with a staggering 8.5 yards per carry clip.
Denver came in to the game ranked eighth in the NFL in rush defense. So what caused their sudden collapse in MetLife Stadium?
Much of the murmurs coming out of Broncos camp appear to suggest that head coach Vance Joseph is losing the locker room. It’s so important in today’s NFL that players buy in to the scheme and philosophy put in place by the coaching staff. The fact that Denver’s rookies are playing very well out of the gate, shows that President of Football Operations John Elway has actually done a solid job of loading the roster with as much talent as possible.
The defense is stacked with playmakers on practically all levels., and the wide receivers and running backs are playing great offense. Sure, Keenum needs to play better to give Denver the chance to win. After all, he’s already matched his 2018 total for interceptions with seven, and we’re only five weeks into the season. But there are issues here that go beyond just Keenum.
Vance Joseph needs to prove his worth as a coach, and well, coach this team to success. While it’s up to the players to get on the field each Sunday and play the game, the preparation simply isn’t there. If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see Elway fire some people. The Broncos are a proud organization, promoting winning above all else. And this type of performance is simply unacceptable for a franchise that has Super Bowl aspirations on a yearly basis. It’s not just the loss, but rather the way in which it happened. Players gave up, didn’t leave it all on the field, and appeared to be completely out of focus, as they got dominated in every phase of the game, by a less talented Jets team.
As Denver heads toward their Week 6 matchup at home against the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, the Broncos have a chance at redemption. Winning is contagious, and is often a cure for all the negativity that ensued a rough stretch like the three-game skid the team is currently enduring. And taking down perhaps the NFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl could right a lot of the wrongs that are currently engulfing this locker room. It could provide the players and coaching staff with the confidence they need to turn this season around.